• The matchup: Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at No. 19 MSU (5-0, 2-0)
• The kickoff: 8 p.m., ESPN2
• The weather: Pretty hot while you’re tailgating – mid-80s – before dropping down into the 70s and eventually the high 60s. Rain unlikely.
• The line: MSU –3
Man, I’ve had a tough time with this one. So many factors to consider in this game, first and foremost being Tennessee’s passing game versus MSU’s secondary. Can’t really tell you who’s going to win that battle, because while I think State’s DBs are great, that Arkansas game last year keeps popping into my head.
On the other hand, Tennessee QB Tyler Bray has not been very good against SEC competition this year, with Florida and Georgia keeping his numbers down and picking him off. MSU’s defense ought to be good enough to cause him trouble – assuming it can get into the backfield at all, because UT has a stout offensive line.
Tennessee’s defense has a tendency to give up huge plays, which could play into MSU’s hands. Only thing is, the Bulldogs haven’t been great at hitting big strikes consistently. QB Tyler Russell has had his issues the last couple of games, although he made some really nice throws at Kentucky last week.
Then there’s the possible X-factor of Volunteers coach Derek Dooley, fresh off hip surgery, having to coach from the booth. How will that affect the way things operate on Tennessee’s sidelines? Who knows.
I just can’t get a bead on how this game will play out. But it’s a home game for MSU, and a huge one at that. It’s a chance to prove some doubters wrong, something cornerback Johnthan Banks said he relishes doing. I think Tennessee will score some, but I think MSU will score just a little more.
• The prediction: MSU 31, Tennessee 28.